Dean told them it was a bad idea to go near this case. That they should call someone else into town and leave it to them, stay the fuck out of it. But of course Sam, ever the reasonable one, said that they were near there anyway, may as well take care of it and get it over with. So what if Dean had some issues with witches? Sometimes you gotta face your fears. That’s what this line of work was all about. It’s our job for Christ’s sake. Please, will you just go with me on this?
Dean hates when Sam puts his foot down about this kind of thing, because there really is no trying to sway him.
And now, because of Dean’s inability to deny his little brother when he gets all puppy-faced, they’re stuck in their disgusting motel room with a toddler and a couple of witches still on the loose.
That’s right. A toddler. Those fucking witches turned Castiel, angel of the Lord, into a goddamn child. And then they got away. Dean could practically taste blood when he was biting back the I-told-you-so (which he ended up saying anyway).
“I cannot believe this,” Dean growls for the tenth time that day from where he’s leaning against the partition in the room.
And for the eleventh time, Sam snaps back,“Just let it go, alright?” He’s sitting at the rickety table in the room, flipping through book after book on witches and their tricks, cell phone at his elbow in anticipation of Bobby’s call back with an update on his own findings. They’d decided that their top priority should be to get Cas back to normal since the witches were probably long-gone by now.
“He’s a toddler, Sam. A TODDLER.”
Sam slams the book in his hands on the table and twists in his chair to look at Dean, a white-knuckle grip on the table’s edge. “For the last time, he is at least six years old which is not a toddler so would you stop using that fucking word.”
Dean gives his brother a disbelieving look. “Oh I know you are not getting a temper with me, Sam. Who was it that got us into this mess in the first place? Huh?”
“Dean. I’m doing the best I ca—-”
And before he can stop himself, Dean exclaims,“Yet he’s still a kid!”
Sam stands. He doesn’t say anything, just slowly shakes his head, bitch face in place. After a few seconds filled with tension, Sam says shortly, “Fine,” and he grabs his jacket from the back of the chair and leaves the room, closing the door with a slam.
Dean only lets out a long sigh when he can’t hear Sam’s hard footsteps. It’s not that he doesn’t know Sam is doing his best. Because Sam always does. But maybe it’s for the best they keep apart for a while. They’re both stressed, discouraged because they haven’t found anything even remotely useful yet.
Jesus, he thinks, running a hand through his hair. He pinches the bridge of his nose, then looks over to his bed.
There Cas is, sitting straight up, legs under the covers, dark hair mussed from the nap Dean had put him down for. His little hands are gripping the comforter, his lip is quivering. Tears are steadily sliding down his cheeks, but he is making no noise whatsoever, doesn’t even really seem aware of the current state he’s in.
Dean swears quietly to himself, this time less frustrated than worried, and crosses the room, sits on the bed.
They had gotten a call on the road a couple weeks ago from Bobby telling them that there was a gang of witches stirring up a whole lotta trouble in a town in Nebraska. Less cursing people for revenge, as was the usual witchy business, and more just for fun. Little things like turning Pomeranians into Pitt bulls and casting a bout of hives on others with no rhyme or reason.
That’s why Dean wanted to stay away. Witches with a purpose he still hated, but at least there was a direct way of stopping them. These ones though; they were using spells from all over the place, different books and rituals. There was no telling just how many separate alters and hex bags and things they had laying around, and they’d need to find and destroy every single one of them before going after the witches themselves. And just so they could fuck around with some random peoples’ lives for kicks.
And because they’d happened to have gotten done with a job in Iowa a day before they got the call, Sam had said what the hell.
They’d been doing pretty well the first few days, having found one the witches’ main haunts and deduced where they’d hid a lot of their spell-casting whatever-the-fucks. The bad shit. They found it, they destroyed it.
Then the witches had come back early from turning some poor sap into a toad and caught the three of them in the act of wrecking an altar. There was a tussle, and some time amidst the fighting one of them threw a little bag at Cas that exploded brown and red powder all over him and his coat. He passed out shortly after that. Sam and Dean, suddenly occupied with figuring out what was happening to the angel, were distracted for long enough that the witches made their escape.
So Dean had picked Cas up from the floor and slung his limp body over his shoulder while making an attempt to avoid getting any of the powder on himself. He didn’t dare open his mouth for fear of inhaling the stuff until Cas was safely in the back seat of the Impala; and then the complaining began.
Skipping all of the bitching on Dean’s part and retaliation on Sam’s, a little while later they had found themselves back at their motel with Cas still passed out. Then, after an hour or two, he literally shrunk into the size he was now before their eyes, like you see in the goddamn movies.
Cas had been awake for that part, the transforming. He’d tried to fix himself with his mojo, but that was fading away these days – Dean hated to think about that – and it didn’t work. And after exhausting a few routine fix-its, everyone got even more frustrated and wound up. Cas reacted in the way only a child could, and threw a tantrum. That was when Dean put him to bed, then proceeded to throw a tantrum of his own (and unfortunately he can’t just nap it off).
The strangest thing about it was that Cas was still essentially himself; he still had his usual thought processes, his dead-pan personality. Just that his voice was different when he spoke. And he couldn’t stop himself from crying when he felt like that was to be done.
Now, Dean scoots closer to Cas on the bed. Cas stares with wet eyes, eyebrows knitted together. Dean remembers this look, remembers it being worn by a young Sam whenever he witnessed John yelling at Dean for fucking up.
“Sorry,” Dean says softly, “did we wake you up?”
Cas pulls his knees up against his chest, settles his chin on his arms, and replies with a sniff. He twists up his mouth like he’s trying to hold back a sob, glances away from Dean and asks, “Why were you fighting?”
Dean covers his face in his hands and doesn’t respond.
“It was becuzza me, wasn’t it,” Cas says, his voice wobbling a little. Dean almost laughs at the way Cas’ words slur together, but doesn’t. When Dean still doesn’t say anything, Cas bursts into loud, hiccuping sobs. “Dean, what’s happ’ing,” he asks, still confused by his body, rubbing his hands at his cheeks. “Dean, I’m sor— I’m sorry.”
“Hey hey hey.” Dean pulls Cas into his arms and hushes him. “It’s not your fault, Cas. We’re just tired.”
It’s not your fault, Sammy. Dad’s just tired.
“We’re gonna figure this out,” Dean tells him. “We’re gonna get you back to normal.”
Cas nods against Dean’s chest and gives a valiant sniffle. He tips his head back and looks up at Dean, eyes puffy, cheeks red, mouth set in a hard line that would look strange and out of place on any other child. “Where’s Sam?”
Dean turns away, over to the curtained motel window. “He’ll be back,” Dean promises – quietly hoping he’s right. He smiles down at Cas. “Time for you to go back to sleep, alright?”
Again Cas bobs his head in agreement. He shuffles back under the covers, lets Dean settle them properly over him. Cas’ gaze flickers away from Dean’s face for a moment before he softly says, “Thank you.”
Dean’s shoulders slump a little at the realization of just how vulnerable Cas really is in this state. He shakes his head. “Go to sleep,” he says, and, without thinking about it, gently places a kiss on little Cas’ forehead.
Sam returns a couple hours later with a sullen expression and a heart-felt apology.
“Yeah, alright,” Dean says gruffly, scratching the back of his neck. He leans back in his chair, glances up at Sam then back to the tabletop covered in books and notes. “We’re both just a little put off by this. I’m… It was unfair’a me, and—”
Sam huffs a laugh and pats Dean’s shoulder. “Dude. Don’t hurt yourself. It’s fine.” He kicks off his boots and shrugs off his plaid, folding it up. “I’m gonna go shower.”
Dean makes a noncommittal sound, stretches his arms above his head.
“Hey, wait,” Sam says suddenly.
Dean turns in the chair to look at him. “What?”
“Where are you gonna sleep?”
Cas is still tucked into one of the beds, pulled in on himself. His thumb hangs loosely out of his mouth where he’d been sucking at it; Dean can’t help but laugh when he sees that.
“I can just share,” Dean says.
Sam doesn’t respond, shifts from one foot to the other.
“With Cas, you freak!”
“Oh. Right.” He looks at the sleeping angel then back at his brother, and smiles. “Right. Okay.”
“What?” Dean asks, narrowing his eyes.
“Nothing! I’m just gonna go. Shower.” And he goes to do just that, closing the door firmly behind him.
Dean just sits there, suspicious, wondering what was up with Sam. Fucking weirdo for a brother, he settles with before standing up from the table.
After Cas had fallen back asleep, Dean had delved a little into researching himself because Sam wasn’t there and he was feeling restless. He’d come up with jack squat, little surprise there. Still, it’d been better than just sitting around worrying and over-thinking things. Now, as he pulls off his shirt and sheds his socks, he can’t stop himself from thinking—
What if we can’t fix him?
What if he’s stuck like this? What if he doesn’t even grow up and stays a 6-year-old forever? Oh God, he is literally a baby in a trenchcoat. I wonder if Bobby will take him. Bobby sure could use a little life in that house of his.
Oh holy shit this is bad. This is really, really bad.
“Dean,” Sam says, snapping his fingers in front of Dean’s face. Sam gives a look of mild concern as Dean comes back from his agonizing. “What’s your deal,” Sam mumbles while getting under the covers on his bed, but his eyes have already fluttered shut so Dean doesn’t bother responding. He scoots from his spot at the end of the bed toward where Cas is snuggled against the pillow and slides as carefully as possible beneath the blankets.
The bed is small enough that Dean has to curl himself around Cas, but he doesn’t mind. He’s reminded of how he used to do this with Sam when Sam was little and worried about Dad.
Cas stirs, makes a soft noise, but Dean hushes him and pulls him closer. The angel settles his small head on the hunter’s shoulder, and falls back into deep sleep. Dean rubs a thumb across Cas’ cheek, then closes his own eyes and does just the same.
Dean is woken abruptly the next morning by a hard punch in the face.
“What the hell,” he growls, squinting against the sunlight streaming in through the window and passing his hand over his cheek.
“Mornin’, sunshine.” Dean’s eyes adjust to see Sam back at the table, laptop open, taking a sip from a coffee cup. “Breakfast over here.”
Something grabs at the front of Dean’s shirt, and it’s a good thing he slept well last night so his reactions are dulled or else he would have sent Cas half way across the room. Cas’ eyes are still closed but he keeps reaching out at Dean, periodically pushing his small hands into Dean’s nose or chin. This is seemingly harmless – but the kid is still an angel and his hits have power. Dean can feel his face and arms bruising already.
Dean sits up and scoots to the edge of the bed, standing and going over to Cas. He catches the angel’s still-flailing limbs and says, “Dude, wake up.”
“Dean, what are you doing?” Sam asks with a laugh.
“He was hittin’ me, dammit,” Dean tells him roughly. He doesn’t even care if that was rude; he just got a fucking child’s sledgehammer of a hit square in the jaw. Of course he’s in a bad mood.
Cas opens his eyes slowly, his arms and legs going limp. Dean settles him back down onto the bed, where Cas lets out a big yawn and rubs sleepily at his eyes with the heels of his hands.
“He’s kind of adorable as a kid,” Sam remarks. Dean glances over at him with a look of indignation, but his brother just raises his eyebrows and takes a bite of the sandwich in his hand.
Dean decides not to say anything back because he was actually just thinking the same exact thing.
Instead he tells Cas to get up and eat, then goes over to where Sam is and starts rifling through the food bag. “You got anything?” Dean asks once he’s got a hold of a cinnamon bagel and a cup of coffee, taking the seat across from his brother.
Sam shakes his head and sighs. “Nothing. You’d think it would be easy to find, what with the whole humans-into-frogs thing, but no, nothing on transformations.” He runs a hand through his hair. “Sorry, man.”
“Nah, I know you’re trying,” Dean says, burying his own frustration in favor of reassuring his little brother. No need for a repeat of last night. He looks over to Cas, who’s still under the blankets, staring at them. Dean rolls his eyes. “Cas, I’m not gonna say it again. Get over here and come eat. Or no breakfast for you.”
Sam closes the book he’d had open, a disbelieving look on his face. “Oh my god, Dean. That is no way to talk to a child.”
“That’s how I talked to you as a kid.”
“Was that supposed to be a justification?”
Cas starts sliding off the bed, slowly, like he’s afraid the ground will suddenly disappear underneath his feet. He starts toddling over to them just as hesitantly.
“We need to get him some clothes,” says Sam as they watch Cas make his way to the table. They’d been in such a rush to start researching cures that they hadn’t even bothered to get Cas something to fit his new body, so now he’s dressed in only one of Dean’s raggedy AC/DC shirts.
“Whatever you say, mother hen,” Dean retorts, grinning when Sam kicks his leg.
Then suddenly, Cas’ foot catches on the hem of his shirt and he trips and falls flat on his face.
Sam is the one who barks a laugh, covering his mouth with his fist. Dean is at his side in a second, picking up him, already hushes any sobs that may be welling up inside of him. Cas sheds a few drops but mostly just looks sort of confused.
“Wha’ juss happened?” he asks, and Sam laughs again.
“You are such a dick,” Dean says to Sam with a glare. He shifts Cas in his arms and tells him, “You tripped. Are you okay?” A couple more tears slide down from Cas’ wide eyes. Dean brushes them away then sits Cas down in the chair across from Sam, picks up his bagel, breaks off a piece and gives it to the angel.
Cas contemplates the bread before sticking it in his mouth, putting his tiny hands out in front of him and looking at them. When he’s done chewing, he frowns down at them. “My hanns hurt,” he states, staring up at Dean from where he’s leaning over Cas’ chair.
“Why don’tcha kiss ‘em and make it better, mother hen?” Sam sneers at Dean with a smirk, turning back to his computer to avoid the murderous look he knew he would get.
But instead, Dean says, “Yeah, don’t even joke, ‘cause I did that for you as a kid,”
and Sam gapes, has no witty response for that because he is honestly surprised.
“Why would kissing my hanns make ‘em better, Dean?” Cas pipes up. He holds them out toward Dean, eyes huge with curiosity.
Dean thinks suddenly that Cas was always sort of like a kid, with his skewed view of the world, constantly being baffled by the simplest of things. Nothing’s really changed besides his voice and size.
Dean takes Cas’ hands in his own, momentarily shocked by just how miniature they are in comparison. Leans closer, turns them palm up, and presses his mouth softly to both of them once.
Cas stares back down at his hands, increasingly bewildered.
Dean rubs the back of his neck in vague embarrassment.
Sam glances between the two of them, amused, and starts to say something before Dean cuts him off with a wave of his hand.
“Dude,” he says, “just can it.”
A couple hours, several hundred pages, a dozen different websites, and one apologetic phone call from Bobby later, Sam is about ready to just resign to taking care of a child for the rest of their lives.
“It wouldn’t be that bad,” Sam says, voice muffled from where his head is covered by his arms on the table. “He was practically a child before this anyway. It wouldn’t be any worse.”
“You mean ‘sides the fact he’s a fucking six-year-old,” Dean replies. “Yeah, that would work out real well.”
Dean threads his hands through his own hair and leans against the back of his chair. “Yeah, whatever.”
Cas is curled up on top of the covers on Dean’s bed with his thumb in his mouth, but he’s not asleep. He’s been watching and listening to the two of them for the past few hours, injecting an idea here or there but otherwise staying quiet. Now he says, “Dean, I am finding this very dull and I am feeling ressless.”
Sam and Dean share a look.
“Oh my god,” Sam laughs, “he’s bored.”
Dean suppresses a sigh and a swear, kneading the bridge of his nose between his fingers.
“Let’s take him to the park. Pretty sure there was one in the middle of town,” suggests Sam with a grin.
“What, are you kidding?”
“Why not? We’ve been at it for hours. It’ll be nice to take a break, get some fresh air.”
Dean cannot believe what he’s hearing, but before he can argue that Sam’s priorities are more than a little out of whack, Cas says, “Yes. Take me, please.”
Sam has to drive them since Dean planted himself in the passenger seat, intent on keeping a bitch face that could rival some of Sam’s in place. Sam comments on how Cas is supposed to be the child here as he straps the angel into the back seat.
Before they head to the park, Sam takes a quick detour into a local clothes shop, coming back out with a tiny striped sweater, a pair of jeans, and some sandals.
As he’s dressing Cas in them, Dean asks just what the hell he was thinking when he bought those.
“I think he’ll look adorable in them,” is Sam’s reply.
Dean’s judgmental silence speaks volumes more than anything he would have said to that, because he honestly can’t tell if his brother is being serious or not.
The sweater fits Cas snugly but the jeans are a little long and pool at the ends of his legs. He doesn’t seem to mind though; he’s too busy wiggling his toes against the sandals on his feet. “This’iz quite diff’rent from what I usuhlee adorn,” he comments, pulling lightly at the ends of his sleeves. “These’re really confertuhbull.”
Sam responds by ruffling his hair before getting back into the driver’s seat, starting up the car. “Today’s gonna be great,” he says.
Dean rolls his eyes.
The park has a couple of other families already there when they finally arrive. Kids in the sandbox, on the swings, going down the slide, under the hawk-eyes of parents at the ready for bruises and tears. As Dean steps out of the car, he finds he can’t really complain too much about being taken away from research; the change in scenery and a breath of fresh air actually is nice.
Sam comes around the car with a guiding hand on little Cas’ neck, who looks both intrigued and somewhat daunted.
“Wha’ ehzactuhlee is done here?” he asks, eyes darting from face to face of the park’s other visitors as the three of them make their way toward an empty bench. A group of moms sitting together gossiping look over at Sam and Dean, exchanging glances with each other and giggling.
“Jesus Christ,” Dean says, elbowing Sam. “Girls just never grow out of that shit do they.”
Sam gives his brother a pointed look. “Hey now, there’re children around.”
Dean resists the urge to face-palm, instead lifting Cas up next to him onto the bench, resting a hand on his shoulder. “Cas, you’re a kid, and kids play. Y’know, swing on the monkey bars, go down slides; that kinda thing.”
Cas scrunches his eyebrows and draws up his mouth with wonderment in a way that no normal child ever would, and Dean laughs, shaking the angel a little.
“You’ll be fine,” Dean says, grinning when Cas stares up at him.
“Good morning.” Before the three of them is a red-haired woman trailing a little boy holding an even smaller girl’s hand. The woman smiles. “Don’t think I’ve seen you all before. Just move here?”
“Yes, yes we did,” Sam responds, standing to shake her hand. She’s obviously momentarily put off by Sam’s height, but quickly recovers and takes his hand. “I’m Sam, this is Dean. And… Cas.”
“Hi,” Dean greets lamely. Cas turns his stare from Dean to the woman, tilting his head owlishly.
“Kim. My husband,” she gestures to a man with glasses and messy hair a few yards away talking to someone very animatedly, “Mason. And—”
“I’m Laurence,” the boy at her side cuts her off, “but you can call me Laur, and this is my sister, Ale— A— Alexandria, but don’t call her Alex ‘cause she hates that, and she’s four, but she can talk fine, and I’m seven by the way, and she’s kinda anno— annoying sometimes, but she’s also really nice, and do you wanna play with us?”
Kim laughs gently and pats her son on his head as they catch up what he just said. Dean leans over to Cas and whispers, “Dude, I think he was talkin’ to you.”
Cas scrunches his eyebrows together, tipping his head sideways even further. He looks at Laurence, who is staring at Cas expectantly. “’Scuze me, but are you asking me?”
Laurence nods furiously. “Mama said we should come over an’ ask ‘cause you looked kinda lonely and I wanna play with someone that’s not Al— Alexandria.”
“Hey!” the girl behind him squeaks.
“I still love you though.” And Alexandria seems content with that answer. “So anyway will you?” He turns to Sam and asks, “Can he?”
“I don’t see why not,” Sam says, ruffling Cas’ hair and lightly pushing him off the bench.
Cas locks eyes with an equally confused Dean. All he says is, “Dean,” but he hears the I don’t understand what’s happening, please do not make me go, please, please, please.
Dean grins down at him. “Don’t get too messy there, kid.” He nearly chokes on the laugh he has to keep back at the glare that Cas shoots him. Then Laurence takes the hand of a flabbergasted and pissed-off child angel, dragging him and Alexandria toward the sandbox.
Sam sits back down and scoots in to allow a space for Kim to join them, which she does with thank-you.
“So,” Kim says while looking out at the sandbox, “how long have you two been together?”
The face-palm that Dean had been suppressing comes out then as Sam sputters. “Oh, no, no, we’re, he’s my brother.”
Kim glances at Sam and covers her mouth with her hand, snorting a little with embarrassment. “Oh god, I’m sorry.” She looks back at the sandbox, where Mason has joined Alexandria, Laurence, and Cas, and seems to be having more fun than the three kids combined. “But, so—- Who’s Cas’ dad?”
“Dean is,” Sam tells her before his brother can get a word in.
Kim doesn’t seem to notice Sam’s gasp when Dean sharply elbows his side as she says, “That’s what I thought.” And at the Dean’s confused expression, she continues, “I’m a mother. I can tell.” She lifts one shoulder and rolls her eyes, like What can ya do.
They sit in silence for a while after that, just watching the four of them play in the box. Cas seems to have gotten over his initial reluctance of doing something as bizarre as sitting in sand and is building a rather complex castle. Laurence is digging without particular intent, Mason and Alexandria drawing circles around him and laughing.
“Wish you coulda grown up like this,” Dean says quietly to Sam so Kim can’t hear.
Sam chuckles softly, looking wistful at that. He slouches forward, putting his arms on his knees and folding his hands. Turning his head toward Dean, he replies just as quietly, “I think you did alright by me.”
Dean, unable to deal with the honesty of that response, slugs his brother on the shoulder with a “Shuddup.”
“So, um,” starts Kim again, “am I allowed to ask about his mom, or…”
My god is she nosy, Dean thinks before saying, “She died. In—- childbirth.”
“I’m so sorry.”
Dean waves a hand dismissively, pulling a face. “Oh, we’ve been gettin’ on just fine thanks to Uncle Sam here stepping in to comfort us. Isn’t that right, Sammy?”
Sam gives a tight smile, not quite sure what his brother is up to.
Dean puts his arms behind the bench and leans backward, staring out to where Cas is now getting Laurence to help him dig a moat around his sand castle. “Sometimes I feel bad, y’know, taking Sam away from his beau.”
“Jesus, Dean,” Sam says before he can stop himself.
“Oh!” Kim says. “So you are, I mean—”
“As a rainbow,” Dean tells her. “Wonder what ol’ Gabe’s getting up to these days. Ah, well.”
Sam gapes, shaking his head, but not making an attempt to wriggle his way out of this one.
Kim pats Sam on his shoulder. “Some fantastic guy is gonna come along for you, Sam.”
“Yeah, Sam.” Dean sighs. “And when he does, don’t you hesitate to let him whisk you away. I can manage Cas on my own.” He ruffles Sam’s hair the flicks him on the ear.
His brother mutters, “Yeah I bet you’ll manage him.”
Before Dean can ask exactly what that means, Laurence comes sprinting toward them, nearly falling over in his haste. Kim doesn’t hesitate to scoop him up in her arms when he reaches her. She brushes his bangs away from his face, standing as Mason approaches with Alexandria in one arm and Cas on his free hand.
“Mom, mom,” Laurence is saying. “Mom, Daddy says Cas izza praw— pr— Daddy, what was that word?”
“Prodigy,” Mason tells him, grinning at his boy and his wife in turn.
“Yeah, that, ‘cuz he made this castle, and it was awesome, Mom, it was awesome.”
Cas has let go of Mason’s hand, now fidgeting with his sweater’s hem. Dean can’t believe it, but it’s almost like Cas is embarrassed at the praise.
Laurence tugs at his mothers shirt sleeve until she lets him down. He totters over to Cas and sticks his hand out in front of him. Dean has a flash back to when Cas had first appeared before Sam, who had offered his own hand, much to the angel’s confusion. He glances over to his brother, who meets Dean’s eyes and grins, remembering too.
Cas takes his fingers away from his sweater hem to grasp Laurence’s out-stretched hand. Laurence shakes it once and says, “God speed” with a look so solemn it could rival Cas’. Then he drops his hand and nods.
Mason hands Alexandria off to his wife and picks Laurence up in a flourish. “Alright, kid, I think it’s time for your nap.” He looks over to Sam and Dean, starting to apologize for Laurence, saying, “I’m sorry, he’s been kinda into those military movies lately,” but Dean stops him with a smirk.
“Seriously. We’ve seen weirder.” Dean gets up from the bench, Sam following suit. “It was real nice meeting you all.”
“You too, Dean,” Kim replies. “Sam, Cas. We better see you guys around, okay?”
All of a sudden, Dean sort of wishes they could. That they could set up in a small town like this, just the three of them. Away from all of their responsibilities and the constant hunting and moving around. Trade it in for friends and stability, because it really has been great to just sit in a park and talk.
But Dean mentally shakes himself out of that though because Jesus, he’s not actually a dad, thinking about stability for his family.
“Yeah,” he says, “we’ll see ya,” and starts walking toward the Impala, not looking back to see if Cas and Sam follow.
Dad, we can’t keep doing this. It’s too late for me, but we can still make it right for Sam.
Dean, I’m sorry.
But ain’t no such thing as permanence with this family anymore.
“Dean.” Sam waves his hand in front of his brother’s face as he slides back into the booth.
Dean comes back to himself. His right hand loosely grips his fork, his left supporting his head, elbow on the table. Soft ambient murmuring, sizzling bacon from the kitchen, half-eaten cherry pie in front of him; they’re at a diner. Right.
“You okay, man?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” And before Sam can respond, he takes another bite of his pie then asks, “Any word from Bobby?” Since that’s what Sam had gone outside for, to talk to Bobby when he’d rung.
Sam hesitates for half a second before sighing in an apologetic way.
Dean catches that hesitation, but doesn’t comment on it, just groans and says gruffly, “Why would this be such a hard thing to find. Christ.”
“No use getting worked up over it, Dean,” comes Cas’ soft voice, who is happily swinging his legs in his booster chair at the edge of the table, and damn is that weird.
Dean knows he’s right though; getting stressed out will do nothing but get tensions high again, which is the last thing he wants. So he ruffles Cas’ already messy hair and tells him to keep eating.
“It’ll be fine,” Sam says with a small quirk of his mouth.
Dean narrows his eyes. This coming from the guy who’d given up on finding anything? “My god you’re suspicious,” he mutters.
“Nothin’,” Dean replies, wiping away a piece of stray food stuck to Cas’ face. He’ll figure what’s up with his brother soon enough.
Dean is detaching a drowsy Cas from himself to put to bed when Sam steps outside to ‘get a soda’. Oh, yeah, okay, and since when do you have to take your phone with you to the vending machine? Sam probably thinks Dean wouldn’t see him slipping it into his jacket pocket, but hell, what kind of a hunter would be if he couldn’t pick up small movements like that.
So after Sam shuts the door behind himself, Dean quickly finishes tucking Cas into the covers then strides over to the door. And Dean, being the shameless man he is, doesn’t hesitate to open the door a crack to listen in.
“Yeah, hey, it’s me,” comes Sam’s muffled voice. It’s clear enough that Dean can tell Sam didn’t go very far. He’s probably just leaning against the wall.
But shit. Again with the lying.
And oh, fuck, what if it’s Ruby?
“There’s no way in hell he’ll say it,” Sam is telling the person on the other end. “Honestly I’ve never even once heard him…” He trails off, probably so the other person can say something. Sam laughs after a moment. “Yeah, maybe once, a long time ago. Maybe.”
Dean has no doubt in his mind that Sam and whoever (please don’t be Ruby please please please) are talking about him, which is worrying within itself.
“I know. I’ll think of something tonight.” Pause. “Yeah that’s the most troubling thing about it. Do you know if it has to be both parties on their own accord? Or can I, like, get Cas to…” Sam’s voice fades away with the sound of footsteps on gravel.
Get Cas to what?
Dean shuts the door and almost wants to hit himself in frustration. This is so fucked. It’s one thing to keep a secret about Dean, but one about Cas? Dean can take whatever comes his way. He’s used to shit like that, no big deal. Cas though, he ain’t used to not being able to zap his mojo and get things done square the first time.
So what the hell is Sam doing, sneaking information about Cas around?
Shit shit shit shit shit—
Dean kicks himself for jumping slightly at the angel speaking. Get it together, man. He abandons his position at the door, retreating to the bed, taking off his button-down and tossing it onto the floor. Sliding under the covers with Cas, he says, “You’re s’posed to be sleepin’”
“Your loud swearing woke me,” he replies.
“Oh.” Jesus. “My bad. Just kinda over-whelmed right now I guess.”
Cas hums contemplatively. “I believe Sam is right in saying it will all work out, Dean. Please donn’ stress yourself nee’lessly.”
Dean, it’s alright. Please don’t get all crazy. Dad’s got it under control, okay?
“Leas’ of all, donn’ worry about me.”
You’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.
Dean gives a bitter huff of laughter, pulling Cas into his chest. “Dammit,” he whispers into the angel’s hair. “Seems like it’s me who’s gettin’ taken care of instead, huh.”
Sam comes back just in time to see Dean put his lips to Cas’ ear before falling to sleep. And with a stupid grin, he thinks to himself that maybe this won’t be so hard to do after all.
Right as sunlight begins to peek out under the grimy motel curtains, Dean forces himself to wake up. He doesn’t want a repeat of yesterday, doesn’t know if his face could take a second beating from Cas’ fists. He glances down at the snoozing angel, face pressed into the pillow, letting out soft breaths from his mouth. Looking all the world like just another kid, harmless and peaceful.
Dean almost laughs at that, remembering fleetingly how he himself had been like that. Once upon a time.
His eyes drift over to Sam, who is just as deep into sleep as Cas. Secretly Dean has always admired how calmly his brother sleeps; Dean can’t seem to break the habit of sleeping with a hand under the pillow, tight grip on the handle of his gun.
Although—- these last few days sleeping next to Cas have been…
Sam flips over in his bed, readjusting himself with a sigh, his back to Dean now. Dean slides slowly off his own bed, careful not to jostle Cas. He pads lightly over to the table across the room, which is covered corner to corner with papers, books, Sam’s open laptop, and Sam’s phone.
Dean wondered vaguely what it said about him that he hardly feels bad at all for snooping as he gingerly opens Sam’s phone. He presses the green call button to bring up the list of last contacted to the screen.
Please don’t be Ruby please don’t be Ruby—
Dean scrolls down. There are three separate calls to or from Bobby since yesterday afternoon.
“What the hell,” he mutters before placing the phone back on the table. He flirts with the idea of calling Bobby himself, or even just confronting Sam, but that would make the situation a whole lot uglier.
What do you do when the two people you trust the most are secretly talking behind your back?
Dean runs a hand through his already messy bed head before pulling on his shoes, grabbing his jacket, and heading out to the parking lot.
When Dean comes back a little over an hour later, Sam and Cas are already up and are sitting at the table. Talking. They’re talking, and Cas, who is in the chair facing the door, is nodding vigorously with what can only be described as a dire expression on his chubby kid face. Sam abruptly stops whatever he was saying as Dean closes the door.
“Uh, hey,” Dean says.
“You better have food,” Sam replies, shifting some of the papers and books out of the way. Dean places the bag of food and Sam’s coffee there. “Where’d you go?” Sam asks as he starts sifting through the bag.
“Out,” he tells him, grabbing his own coffee and going to sit on the edge of his bed.
Sam raises an eyebrow. “Everything cool?”
No. “Yeah, course.”
What were you talking to Cas about? Why have you been sneaking calls to Bobby? Why the hell won’t you tell me?
“So,” Dean starts.
Sam glances at his brother as he breaks off a piece of bagel for Cas. “So?”
“Maybe we should move on from here.”
“What, like, give up on trying to cure Cas?”
Dean brings his coffee to his mouth, more to hide behind it than drink. “Maybe, yeah. For now at least.” Dean plows into the explanation he’d thought up while he was out. He’s got this. “’Cause, yeah, we’re down a man, but we’ve done well enough on our own before, and I’m sure Bobby’d be okay lookin’ after him a while, but we’ve got other—-”
“Okay,” Sam cuts him off.
Dean’s brow knits together. “Okay?” he repeats.
“Yeah, okay. What, I’m not allowed to agree with you?” Sam asks at Dean’s sideways glance.
“I guess,” Dean replies, getting up to throw his empty coffee cup in the garbage. He leans on the wall near Sam, crossing his arms. “Actually, no. You never go with me on things like this without giving me miles of shit for it.”
Sam bitchfaces but doesn’t answer.
“Whatever,” Dean says, pushing off from the wall. “Just start getting your crap together.”
Cas, who has been quietly chewing on the bagel, speaks up, saying rather solemnly, “Was check-out not at 10:30?”
Dean glances at the bedside clock. 10:42, sucker, it says.
“Shit,” Dean mutters without any real conviction. He takes off his jacket, kicks off his shoes, throws his shirt on the ground, and lays face-down in his bed.
“I got up bitch early today so I wouldn’t get a face full’a angel fist. I’m tired. Lemme catch a few hours.” He pulls the covers over himself.
“Dean, you are not about to just sleep the day away,” Sam says with that little are you fucking serious right now? whine in his voice.
“Perhaps it would be best to leave him,” Cas murmurs. Dean peeks out beneath the covers in time to see the look he gives Sam.
Dean pulls the blankets back over his head, Sam asking Cas what he’d like to do. They decide to go to the park again – yeah, I’ll fuckin’ bet you’re going to the park – and depart with a promise to be back in a while.
Dean peers out again, just to make sure they’re both gone. Because this is another opportunity to see what Sam’s been up to. Dean decides that he can take a look through his browsing history or something. He thinks he’s technologically savvy enough to manage that.
He snuggles deeper into the bed. He’ll get up in a sec. It’s not like the computer’s going anywhere.
Dean opens his eyes gradually, yawning. He stops mid-exhale when he feels the lump of warmth attached to his bare back and hears the light tip-tapping of computer keys, and immediately starts mentally kicking himself.
“You were really tired, man,” Sam says, already knowing his brother is awake.
Dean glances at the clock and gives himself another good, hard kick.
4:18, asshole. You really just slept for over five hours straight. How do you feel? Refreshed?
“Apparently,” Dean groans. There goes any hope in finding out anything that way.
Cas lets out a soft breath onto Dean’s back before flipping over and burying his arms under the pillow. Dean inches off the mattress, going over to Sam’s bed and taking the blanket off of it, wrapping it around his shoulders. He hobbles sleepily to the table and sits across from Sam.
“Whatcha doin’,” he asks, laying his head on the table.
The corner of Sam’s mouth pulls up. “You’re such a kid after napping.”
Dean kicks his brother’s shin.
“Case and point.”
Dean sighs out a ‘whatever’ in response, turning his gaze to Cas. He says, “I wonder if he’ll age.”
Sam stops typing. “What?”
“Maybe this is, like, a second chance.”
He closes his laptop. “Dean.”
“Maybe God’s tellin’ us to quit.” He brings his arms up to pillow his head.
“I know you been callin’ Bobby, Sam,” Dean states, still looking at Cas.
Sam makes a startled sound. “Yeah, to ask him for help,” he recovers.
“Three times in a day? That’s kind of much, don’t you think?” Dean counters, sitting up now. “Especially when it’s behind my back.”
“Behind your… Dean, have you been spying on me? Going through my phone?”
“Have you been lying to me?”
“Lying? About what!” Sam demands a little too loudly, immediately glancing over to Cas, who stirs a bit.
“About not knowing how to fix Cas,” says Dean, “because it’s one thing to be making booty calls to Ruby, or even to be sneaking info about me around. But Cas?” Sam isn’t replying so he continues, “C’mon, man. He’s got enough shit to deal with! Losing his Grace. Being cast out from Heaven?”
“Dean, I know.”
“Do you, Sam? Then why—” Cas makes a snuffling noise, face drawing together, so Dean lowers his voice. “Then why the fuck are you keeping things from me, huh?”
Sam rubs a hand down his face. “Dammit, Dean, I can’t tell you.”
“Will you just leave it alone, please? I just can’t.”
“No, Sam. If you know how to break this curse then you are going to fucking tell me.”
Sam turns his head toward the window, sucking his bottom lip into his mouth. “I can’t tell you,” he says, facing Dean again, “because it has to be your idea.”
“What does? What’re you talking about?”
“That’s all I can say. Seriously. If I tell you exactly what you have to do, then it won’t work, and he—-”
Dean waits a few seconds for Sam to pick up his sentence. When he doesn’t, Dean prompts, “What? Cas what?”
Sam sighs. “Cas won’t change. He won’t age, won’t grow. Actually, he…” Sam sighs again, more deeply. “He’d probably die within the month.”
Dean stares at Sam until his brother has to look away. He draws his blanket in on himself.
“Oh,” Dean says.
His shaking hands are the only things giving him away. He tucks him in between his legs to try to still them.
“Okay. I … Shit, you can’t even tell me what I have to do.” He pauses. “But if you already know how to break it, then why haven’t you…”
“It… kind of calls for a specific person to do it.”
“Can’t tell me what person, can you?”
Sam looks down at the table. Dean sports a bitter grin.
“Perfect,” Dean says. He stands up and works his way over to his bed, wrapping his blanket tight around himself. He lays down next to Cas, who rolls over toward Dean on his own accord. Cas opens his eyes a slit before closing them again.
“Dean,” he breathes out.
Dean doesn’t even notice Sam slip out the door, just presses his face close to the angel’s. “Cas,” he whispers. “You awake?”
“I’m gonna fix you. I promised, and I don’t break my promises. Okay?”
And then Cas mumbles out so quietly that Dean barely catches it, “Love you.”
Dean, you’re the best brother in the world and I love you and that will never, ever change.
Stop being so girly, Sam.
But yeah, I love you, too, bro.
“I love you, too.”
Dean thinks he must be catching up for all of the lost sleep throughout his entire life in these last few days as he wakes up. The clock glares 8:43 at him.
“Sam?” Deans half-calls out into the dark. When did the lights turn off?
“Went for another fucking night call with the old man?” he mumbles to himself as he gropes for the bedside light. “The hell are they doing, making movie pla— WHOOOAAA.”
Beside him, face pressed into the pillow, covers concealing nothing higher than his lower back, is Cas. Full-grown Cas. Full-grown naked Cas.
Full-grown naked Cas wakes up gradually, eyes flitting open for a brief second, yawning widely.
“Hello, Dean,” he says, then stops mid-stretch at the sound of his voice. His deep voice. He looks at himself, then looks back at Dean, who is frozen on the edge of the bed, staring as Cas’ face.
“I am an adult again,” Cas masterfully observes. “Dean, you broke the curse.”
But Dean shakes his head. “How? I didn’t do anything.”
Cas starts to say something, but just smiles instead. Not those ghosted, barely-there smiles he usually wears; an actual one. Dean’s got a naked, smiling angel in his bed.
“I am sure Sam will explain upon his return,” Cas says.
“Wait,” Dean replies, “what, so Sam told you and not me? What gives?”
Cas rolls onto his back and hitches the blanket up to his chin, still smiling contentedly. “The object of the curse – in this instance, me – could evidently be informed of the workings of it. But the one who needed to break it, you, could not be as it would…” He trails off for a moment, searching for the right term. “Skew the results.”
“Skew the results.”
Cas gives him a pointed look for a moment before closing his eyes once more.
“Dude, you are not seriously about to go back to sleep.”
“Sleeping is nice,” Cas sighs. “It is very rejuvenating. I now see why humans so often do it voluntarily.”
“Uh… Huh.” This is too weird, even for Dean, master of the crazy.
Dean doesn’t go back to sleep. He sits up against the headrest and tries to think through what Cas meant about ‘skewing the results’, what Sam meant by a ‘specific person’. Why both of these things added up to keeping shit from Dean.
He’s still not putting two and two together when Sam gets back at around 9:10.
“Where the fuck were you?”
“Out,” Sam says.
“Ha-ha. That’s cute.”
Sam smirks. “No, seriously, I just, ah, thought you two would need some time.”
“Wow, Dean, I didn’t know you were into that.” Sam drapes his jacket on one of the chairs and heads toward the bathroom. He starts up the shower then goes back out to get his pajamas. “I did come back before but you guys were still asleep, and he was already…” Sam gestures vaguely at Cas, “so I turned the light off and left again.”
“Sam, really. What are you talking about.”
Sam gives his brother an incredulous look. Then he asks, “Are you serious?”
“Uh, yeah, Sam.” Dean’s started to get really annoyed. He fixed Cas already; now why can’t they just tell him what the fuck he did?
“Cas didn’t… Oh, oh, he left it up to me to explain?”
“Sam will you just—-!”
“Okay! Okay. Bobby found this really obscure, really old spellbook that had this in it. The spell was designed to change the affected into the most personal form according to the affected’s…” Sam clears his throat. “Object of desire.”
“The spell could only be broken if that person could accept and reciprocate the feelings expressed, even when in that state,” Sam finishes, then darts into the bathroom and shuts the door before Dean can react.
Object of desire.
Object of desire.
Dean looks down at the (still very naked) sleeping angel beside him. He suddenly is seeing him in an entirely new light.
Although really, it’s not that all new, he realizes. He’s still awkward, child-like, virgin angel Castiel. That just so happens to desire Dean.
Cas desires Dean.
“Shit,” Dean says half-heartedly. “Shit shit shit shit—-”
“Mmmmm’Dean,” Cas groans, arm flopping out onto Dean’s waist, gently tugging.
“Yeah, yeah, go back to sleep,” he grumbles, scooting into Cas’ loose embrace. Though all of the hard lines are back, Cas’ face is still incredibly serene while he sleeps.
“You child,” Dean says softly before kissing the angel’s eyelids and drifting off himself.